Body Positivity Is Great And All But Not When It's Ignoring Health Concerns

Body Positivity Is Great And All But Not When It's Ignoring Health Concerns

The popularity in body positivity affects how we view health and fitness.

The body positivity movement founded in 1996, has been one of the best movements to help women. The movement encourages women to accept their bodies while improving health and well-being. The movement, growing in popularity, has become an anthem to the plus-sized community. Since the age of super modeling, only slender women have been given the platform. Things have changed, famous plus-size model Ashley Graham has made waves. Graham a body positivity advocate is tearing down the idea of big women cannot be sexy. Women who are full-figured are sexy, they can wear lingerie and bikinis; this is the revolution.

I’m sorry to burst your bubble but, women’s bodies in the media have never been about women’s empowerment. It has been about aesthetics and sexuality. People have killed to be thin. Bigger women are embracing their bodies, wearing whatever they want. These attitudes are challenging the traditional standard of beauty. What had started out as radical love for one’s body has been diluted and reduce to shallowness adopting negative attitudes towards exercise. As a fitness advocate, the body positivity movement isn’t fighting for health or equality it is fighting for the crown of attractiveness.

On Social Media, the body positivity movement has become political. Women are sick of conforming and are sick of the ridicule for not having the perfect body, so they should be. But what about health? The movement is promoting a sedentary lifestyle. Tessa Holiday, the world’s first size 22 model and the founder of #effyourbeautystandards campaign, is well known for her ideas about body confidence. In the past, she has tweeted:

“If you want someone to preach health over self-love, I’m not your girl.”

Tweets and thoughts like these are alarming. What is the end message? Shouldn’t self-love correlate to health? Where is the line between body confidence and obesity? Media plays a power influence in acceptance, normalizing obesity, when in fact obesity is a disease as well as an epidemic. Overweight and obese people are at a higher risk of developing diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. Yes, skinny people can be unhealthy, but their risk is dramatically lower. For one, we have to stop associating skinny as healthy, you can be skinny and have unhealthy eating habits. It seems confidence and this self-love talk is going to people’s heads.

In the US, two-thirds of women are overweight. I have family members struggling with diseases associated with their weight, it’s not pretty. I have seen children in my church struggle to stand while begging for food. Normalizing obesity is a problem! Are advocates of this movement in denial? Are they too focused on peoples’ opinions? The message we are sending to young women and girls are radical. The pressure to be thin has been replaced with “it is okay to be obese.” Neither one is correct. When can healthy be sexy? When will we normalize health?

This new radical ideology from the Body positivity campaign is the result of fat-shaming. Celebrities like Rihanna and Katy Perry have been fat-shamed. Fat shaming is everywhere and it is unnecessary. Skinny and fit people need to back off for a minute with chastisement and encourage those that aren’t fit. People know what they look like, let’s leave it to the doctors and medical professionals to criticize. Our bodies are complex, some people cannot lose or gain weight. At the end of the day, if you love you- you will love others.

Unconditional love for yourself will result in living life in the best condition. I’m not saying women in the body positivity movement aren’t healthy, some are. I’m saying we should have people in the movement telling you healthy is better than sexy. We don’t need people giving the finger towards health! As we get older, our bodies slow down. Excessive weight puts unwanted pressure on our heart and internal organs, causing pain and joint immobility. Role models in the movement are responsible for bringing awareness to health, because what woman wearing over a size 10 wants to hear a woman who is a size 6 telling her about health.

SEE ALSO: Let's Put A Warning Label On The 'Body Positivity' Movement

Let’s get one thing straight, beauty standards are a fantasy. Women bodies are distorted images playing on the insecurities of women. We are constantly focusing on the society, how society sees me, will society accept me. Fuck that and focus on health and yourself. I have struggled with body issues too. My body frame is large and muscular; I have strong thighs and a wide back. I have overcome my struggles with tons emphasize on ton of self-help, eating healthy, and focusing on how I feel when I eat.

Even though I am athletic, I have been called fat plenty of times in my life. What I would like to see is the body positive movement be accessible to everyone having a struggle. Diversify the moment include women of color, men, burned victims, trans women. After all the goal is intersectionality. I want to see full-figured women wearing bikinis in commercials playing sports. I want to see big women on BuzzFeed being active and eating heathy. I want to see clothing stores have clothes for those who are awkward and in between small and plus-sized. Can we normalize health please! I want to see positive body positive images. Our bodies are strong and healthy. The message is you can achieve confidence while striving for your health.

Cover Image Credit: Huffington Post

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Body Shaming Should Be Considered A Crime

Body bullies might as well be called murderers because that's exactly what they try to do to targets.
Appearances should be obsolete and it's particularly low to judge someone solely on how they look.

I get that — I do. But, it seems like every time someone looks at me — it's out of jealousy, creepiness, hatred, envy and other unwanted feelings. All the while, that's not how I look at other people's appearances. I always seek to understand the person beneath the exterior and it pisses me off when others size me up by a look without even giving my mind, feelings, intellect or spirit a chance because of "how I appear."

In life, I've been constantly bullied over my appearance. It's this cruel thing that people do and it never has any rhyme or reason to it. I remember being in middle school and the popular girls were skinny as rails; they had not a curve to be seen. When I hit puberty so did my angles, and I also had an abrupt stop to growth. But I recall the comments I received at just twelve years old that were shockingly disparaging.

Once, I saw a really cute outfit where a girl wore leggings under a mini skirt. After that, I remember taking the time to piece together an outfit which consisted of a purple turtleneck, purple leggings, and an acid-washed mini-skirt. I was an athlete, so weight was never an issue. I was muscular, however, I was very curvaceous, as well, and the day I showed up at my middle school wearing an outfit I'd tried so hard to put together — a few boys in my class told me that I belonged on a street for prostitutes. I was only twelve and attempting to express my creativity in such a murky, developmental phase. I also knew prostitutes broke the law and that association was annihilating to a young adolescent girl trying to develop self-esteem and a positive body image.

Instantly, I was mortified and felt like crying. But, I held it together for the day wondering why a girl I went to school with who wore practically the same outfit as I did wasn't called a hooker by those boys. Why me? What did I do to them to deserve that?

As I entered high school, I was petite and usually weighed about 125 pounds. I remember my physical education teacher giving me a smarmy look when the number read 126 as I stood on her scale and she said, "That's all! I was sure you weighed more than that!" She taught dance and aerobics at my school and every time I saw the dance classes, I felt hurt. When I was an adolescent, I took private, dance classes and always believed myself to be the "fat ballerina in the room." That was because I was developing curves where other girls my age weren't. To make matters worse, my dance teacher ignored me despite my love of dance, thus reinforcing that it was a waste of time to teach a petite, curvy girl where her focus was better aimed at girls who were taller and slender. What did that have to do with dance ability? She doused my passion by way of physical appraisal and I found myself abandoning things like swimming and dancing because I didn't think I looked the part when my looks shouldn't have had anything to do with performing.

As I grew up and the nastiness ensued, I began to hate myself and specifically, my body. I would read articles on how to stay slim and starve myself in order to be perfect just like those waif skinny girls who bullied me. I would go to school not eating and religiously refrained from foods that were fattening. No one called me fat, they just attacked every other part of me. If you think skinny girls have it all; they don't —as they are often picked apart over other things because they aren't overweight. It's like body bullies like to even the playing field so everyone can receive disrespect.

Boys refused to ask me out and I fell slowly into sadness. When I did go on the few dates I had, one stranger who I'd never met pressured me to sleep with him in the eleventh grade. I told him, "no," as his choice phrase was: "wanna f**k?" I recoiled and then attempted to walk home from Denham Springs all the way to Baton Rouge rather than spend another instant with him. He and his friend rolled the windows down on a cold winter night causing me to shiver and threatened to take me and a friend to a field to rape us with a baseball bat. That was because I'd refused to have sex with him. My friend, at the time, was being stupid because I was prepared to walk, but she wanted to win favor with those creeps.

I didn't say a word in their car but was alternating between fuming and scared while wishing to escape. As the guys looked for my house, I endeavored to throw them off and asked them to stop at any random house just so we could get out of the car. In my neighborhood, I knew we could knock on any door to call parents, but my friend was so daft and spoiled my plans. We aren't friends anymore, but I'll never forget the stark contrast in our responses that night. I thought, "How pathetic and desperate! I never want to be like that!"

She's someone I regret ever calling a friend. I got home that night and sobbed inside my bathroom near the locked door. From that, I learned early on how ugly things could get when I declined to do things I didn't want, and it never seemed to end for me. I was always on the lookout for danger and opportunists. It was and still is exhausting. I was so uncomfortable with my appearance because of so many people. Women especially made no effort to hide their resentment while those feelings had me internalizing their dislike. I don't think they ever really understood the damage that caused. I cried often, felt incredibly lonely and depressed. Yet, I kept going while carrying on with the hope that eventually one day that water would be gone.

It followed me everywhere I went instead. College was a little better, but the attention never ceased. Some of the guys I knew or dated were openly rude about figures like mine which is the reason I ditched them. It was dangerous to my health to be reinforced by such toxic members as they certainly had no concern over the repercussions. While, they reminded me of those boys in middle school, I came to find out many of them had liked me, but that only made me more upset. If I had known that I wouldn't have wanted to hang out with them anymore based on that behavior, if anything that extinguished amiability. So, the moment anyone chose to be openly critical of my looks was when I jetted. There are many former people whose insensitivity and crude reluctance to care about my wellbeing was the final nail in the coffin of communication. I'd have thought that cutting ties would work, but sadly their behavior persisted shamelessly the more I protested and objected.

If someone has a history of alcoholism, for instance, why torment them by drinking in front of them or bragging about being sober? I'm not going to buy Listerine with alcohol and put it in their bathroom just to torture them because I can drink it while they can't. Haven't we all graduated from preschool by now?

In one case, my awful ex — who lied like he breathed — would continue to buy me food and beverages that were harmful to my health despite my continuous pleas to support my need to abstain from certain items like dairy and sugar. If I had been a diabetic, it's like he tried to screw with my insulin levels and yes, he was also a man who made smarmy and mean-spirited comments about my looks. That definitely took the appeal out of trying to turn him on after he showed such overt disdain for my figure and health when I knew others would appreciate, support and disagree. That was a ginormous factor in why I left him.

It's ironic that I typed "college was better" above, because that was the exact time my eating habits turned into anorexia and bulimia. Although the people were generally better, the situations I encountered were trying. My first real relationship ended as I entered college and I had a hard time coping. I recall thinking futilely that I just wanted everything to stay exactly the same. I thought that if I could do that then things would reappear as they once were. The love and attention I received from my first boyfriend were like quenching years worth of living in the Sahara. Also, I had a lot of friends in college, since they were more mature and many of them were platonic males.

One of them meant a lot to me yet he was younger by a few years and I was afraid to give him a chance. I reckoned that if we had gotten together that it would have been serious for me, but he might have changed his mind and then I would have lost a friend in the process. So, I guarded the possibility and decided to remain buds.

W and I were tight, as he understood my feelings. Once, he told me a heartbreaking story about his family that reduced both of us to tears. He was this muscular guy and as we sat under the stars, I felt his pain as we both wept in a New Mexico field. Also, he defended me whenever possible which was relatively unheard of for me. We went to Mardi Gras together and a boy situated himself behind me and then groped my behind. At that, I turned around and pushed him for his infraction. After the guy ran off-he told his older brother that I had hit him so his bro came up and confronted me in front of W. At that, W took him aside and told him what really went down and it was over as quickly as it had begun. It didn't get drawn out in a brutal car ride with threats of rape and I was happy that there was another way to tackle indiscretions, as well as, realizing that other people were capable of sticking up for their friends.

When I was in a living hell, it was W who I messaged frantically on Facebook late at night while alone in my apartment. Whenever safe and away from an evil monster, he was there to tell me to dial it back and helped me to center myself. He guided me on what to say, the right questions to ask and helped me see the situation more objectively.

Sadly, our friendship crumbled when he made a joke and due to the trauma I experienced, I did not know who to trust anymore as I stood by and watched my life fall to pieces. It was impossible to talk about it, but he comes to mind often-especially lately-because I believe he knows now what I could not say then. Also, he's one who could back up what I was going through.

When we messaged, it was in secret and sometimes I wished he had been there to handle my attackers like he handled that dude on Bourbon Street. He is still my friend and now that I have returned, I hope he sees that. He never said a harsh word about my appearance but I kept navigating to that one person who would offend me because it felt so normal. Most of those messages originated with family and early education experiences. When I suffered, little was done to assist me and the arduous cycle continued.

It's such a cruel thing to go through, especially when I learned the truth. As I disposed of the men who wanted nothing more than to put me in my place and shame me for being curvaceous, I met more and more men who adored me and professed how much they loved the way I looked. It truly stunned me. Was this why all of that had happened?

A man I dated told me one night, "There should be a line of men waiting outside your door to date you." And although I knew he was right I asked myself, "Why hadn't that been the case?" I was always held back, expected not to enter into relationships and told how I would never measure up.

This put me into a self-made and impossible, perfectionist cycle. I was told I was the shortest individual in my family by those who interfered with my growth and to be blamed for that so openly was crushing. It was a ticking time bomb to end up with eating disorders that hijacked my life. I've never publicly admitted to this, because I was so ashamed to have no control over it. My roommate knew as well as some girls I played soccer with. One night I broke down crying in Miller Hall where my teammates lived just begging for it all to end. I won't say how it happened, but my eating disorders interrupted my life and sat in the driver's seat. I felt like a prisoner waking up every day while trying to control my body and food intake.

In all it's dysfunctional glory, the disorders were like villains to my livelihood. Views of how I looked were so distorted to where I look back at photos of being stick skinny and recalling of how fat I thought I was. It was a cocktail of the magic three — I knew I was anorexic often, I was bulimic for a year and sporadically, but the root of it all was body dysmorphic disorder or BDD. As hard as it is to admit, I still grapple with BDD, although it does not consume hours of my day. The patterns are still there and I've fought hard over the years to revoke BDD's privileges and prevail.

At LSU, I saw a counselor at student services who was male and he urged me to try biofeedback. I resisted, "How could he help me when so many had failed?" I thought he couldn't do anything to change what was broken. Yet, one day he illustrated a story in vivid detail about his wife who had bulimia. As he went through every step of the grueling process, I was shocked at how well he got it. Better was because he was married to her, he obviously loved her even with such an unlovable quality. I wondered, "Who could love someone with this problem?" And he proved to me that the person was lovable, but the problem was not so much. Unfortunately, I stopped seeing him due to my doubts, and based on a statement a therapist I met my freshman year had said to me, "Bulimics are impossible to treat."

I spent my sophomore year battling an invisible disease. I flew out to California and even though it was a blessing, I was plagued by the magic three which eventually forced me to leave that job early. I couldn't concentrate or function and even going there was an attempt ot flee from unpleasant feelings. When I arrived, the scenery was astounding, but the issues remained. I recall not wanting to be in a bathing suit in front of my coworkers. A male took that as I couldn't swim when swimming was one of my most loved pastimes. People mistaking my plight for something else floored me because it was all internal and so screwed up. Somehow, I overcame it. I don't know how I did it, but I did it completely on my own. I worked out and ran every day and I remember telling myself that if I chose to eat something that I would normally want to purge that I would have to find some other way to cope. My activity levels increased as a result of misjudgments. Then, I felt guilty not exercising enough as I tried to reinforce the idea of: "You have to live with whatever you eat without throwing it up."

That was hard; it was really really difficult, and I overcame it slowly. After that, I got involved in a long-term relationship where ongoing health problems caused weight gain. I had chronic sinusitis most likely because stomach acid had eroded my membranes. I could no longer eat dairy or acidic foods without getting infected. I spent all my money on doctors and specialist in vain trying to get my good health back. I was utterly depressed and unloved that it seemed logical. Also, I remember how people treated me like I was a second class citizen during that time. The victory was that I was overweight but I was not reverting to bulimia — but in essence, others attacking my weight inflamed my BDD. No one appreciated that besides me.

Alas, when my health improved, my weight dropped and I felt like me again. I was thin and not bulimic at the same time. It was wonderful right up until I was sexually assaulted. Immediately, the man who assaulted me criticized and sought to humiliate every part of my body since he had seen me due to a drug-facilitated assault. I couldn't get that back ever and since I had been compromised, even though it was a crime, I was paralyzed by the damage he threatened me. In some sick, disturbing way, he knew my difficulties with body image and he saw that as a source of torment. The rape did not kill me, the attack on my figure nearly did.

He tore me to shreds over how I looked calling me short, pig, stupid and other awful things. And just like that, I fell directly down a harrowing spiral. He made it clear that my worth was in direct correlation to my looks and he made ever attempt to portray those as worthless.

The irony was he was the pig and while he itemized me, my looks, my clothing and my life as doomed imperfections, he had no ability to manage half of that. His looks were far from ideal and his personality was downright malevolent. At my job, I began to over-eat in my office but I didn't gain weight again likely because I was starving. Then, once I lost my job, I began to binge and purge all over again. Luckily, it did not get to the point that it once had, but it was clear that a traumatic event could unearth an atrocity that I tried so hard to overcome on my own. I battled resurgence of those sporadically and I tried so hard to hide it. I didn't think my life could get much lower.

As I recovered from the rape, I stopped caring about me and felt like it was useless to even try. My attacker had spread a ruthless smear campaign to destroy me by using my appearance as the focal point, and it was like a bullet inside a gun that he knew would cause the desired result. Of course, he'd never admit to that.

The past seven years I gave up trying because I thought that my looks caused my brutal assault. I would have done anything to avoid reliving that nightmare. Yet, my teacher signed me up to work out in order to keep me strong. I deemed I had been ruined by an awful man who symbolized every bully from my past. I wanted to die and in many ways felt dead, but I didn't want to stop living my life over that. My freedom was gone as well as my confidence. What was the point of life if I couldn't be free and happy? If I couldn't enjoy looking good and being healthy, why go on? I assumed that being raped was an attack on my looks so "looking good" seemed to be the terrifying precursor to abuse that needed to be avoided. I tried to hide, cover up and go unnoticed. However, my faith in God and my future kept me from taking any actions that my bullies seemed to invest in.

I've spent recent years dealing with children who've made horrible comments about my figure both to and behind my back. Also, I've had to put up with adults staring at me and sexually harassment by both men and women. I still try and remind myself of those things that the men who have loved and cared about me said, and I try ardently to accept that as truth. All of those other awful people can go straight to hell where they belong.

No one deserves to be bulled within an inch or their life. No one deserves to be hated or attacked for how they look. That is pure evil. Yet, I still see it and hate it. It makes me want to just cover my body up so no one will attack or hurt me anymore.

My point is that no one knows the inner awfulness of their words and actions, especially when they don't know where a person is coming from. I had a former boss who I had admired initially because she claimed that her daughter had been bullied, and I thought that she would support me. But in actuality, it was her eyes that rolled at me when I was nearby, and her office door that I stood in whenever ridiculous nonsense cropped up. She blamed me and her inaction to help when was terrible and especially from someone who claimed to advocate against bullies. I was spat on, followed, tormented, degraded, stalked, threatened, called names and harassed. And I was the one held accountable for it all. This wasn't long ago and without even realizing it, I began to eat in order to protect myself from being hurt again. Didn't she know she could have prevented that? In some messed up way, it was a survival tool and once that happened I was bullied for gaining weight.

There was no way to win at this, no matter what I did or how I looked, I would be bullied for it. I'm too skinny or too fat. I'm too curvy or not curvy enough. I have lived the life of constant bullying no matter how I looked enough to know that it doesn't matter how I present myself: bullies will always find a way to rip a person apart based on something that they have no control over. It's so unbelievably cruel. And many people look the other way because they're glad it's not them which makes me sicker. It's not a contest, nor is it impossible to stand up for those who are bullied about their looks.

I can not recall one time where I said a nasty word to another person to their face or behind their back about their looks. I've never once done that, not in my mind or with my words. What would be the point of that? It's not just because I know what it feels like; it's because why should that matter? It's not like they can change their skin color, hair, complexion or make themselves magically taller. It's just so mean and I'm so sick of bullies and their evil vendettas of trying to put beautiful, talented and gifted people down. Is that seriously all they have going for them in their empty and pathetic lives?

I thought about writing out every ugly and awful thing that I've ever been called on here and then I realized that those are not the words I want to use. Instead, I'm going to use the words that I've heard to describe me and how I look from the few voices who gave a damn about saving my life and actually attempted to help me.

-Dependable

-Nice

-Sweet

-Perfect

-Beautiful

-Talented

-Smart

-Gorgeous

-Amazing

-The best

These words may be in the minority of voices, but they are true phrases. Why is that so hard for others to believe or accept? I have to wonder what the hell is wrong with this world. Right now, we have a president who is chronically painted orange, with bleached hair, unrealistically ivory teeth and makes an example of debauchery and the unnatural. Out of all of our predestines, he is the one that is the historically worst examples for those who struggle with body concept. He's gone around dogging on lovely women who have had adjustments made when he is a walking advertisement for phoniness and artificial everything. Who is he to talk? Not only is he a hypocrite but his jabs are always at the expense of intelligent and decent females who are powerful and his remarks are almost excursively about their physical appearance, mental aptitude, personality and abilities. In fact, his hateful rhetoric is almost unanimously directed at women. Our president is a misogynist and having him in the office is a superb injustice to every female alive. It makes me ill to hear women defend him when he thinks nothing of us and probably seeks to destroy us all — lest we be subservient to him.

Let's be apparent that no one is perfect and everyone has flaws physical and otherwise. Allowing people to victimize and torment other people over that is not just cruel, it's wrong. If you are unable to grasp this, just put yourself in the shoes of those being bullied. It's very easy to counteract such inhumanity and to even retort with a positive word. I for one know full that women get targeted based on their looks more than men, and it should stop because it's not fair at all. It's an attack on women which is just like a hate crime when you really consider this. And we're saying that's OK by electing a hateful man and allowing his predilections to invade our communities. Even when people don't stop at critiquing looks they'll find something else to ridicule. All of it...every ounce of bullying is bad and should never be tolerated.

It makes me want to punch people. So rather than allow this horrible behavior to continue I advocate that every time a bully opens their mouth to crucify someone else, that they deserve a swift and hard knock because it's only fair. Every time an unkind word is uttered to or about someone based on their looks or their personality, it's just like a punch in their face and if anyone can handle that, it's a bully who dished it out and expects karma to do nothing. I guess they missed the famous quote: "Karma's a beeach."

If we could take just one second every day to tell someone who is bullied or feeling down something wonderful and true about themselves we could turn the epidemic of dissing and abusing other people around. And I'll start.

My teacher is a beautiful man.

His daughter is a wonderful hula dancer.

His wife is a kind and gentle person.

His apprentice is loyal and trustworthy.

My landlord and her daughter are compassionate.

My friends are funny and good people.

My former students are full of potential and lovable.

The male friends I've known who showed me the truth have integrity and helped me overcome silent nightmares.

That was not hard.

Today, I have a new promise to myself and that is: I will never let someone else's nasty words or opinions of how I look or who I am to motivate me to do anything unloving to myself. I also won't sit back and allow others to be bullied based on their sex, appearance, intelligence or aptitude. Bullies won't win.

We should be looking at the actions of bullies and doing something about their entitlement to hate and crucify people who threaten their status or security. Some feel that when it comes to openly abusing others that no consequences should be dealt and the victims of bullies take the brunt of it all. Bullying is an act of cowards permitted by a society made up of too many weak-willed bystanders and that's got to change.

Cover Image Credit: https://www.pexels.com/photo/blood-body-conceptual-dead-432748/

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Stepping Off The Scale Of Self-Hate

A reflection on my struggle with anorexia.

Dedicated to all the strong women in my life

There is something particularly alluring about the beginning of a new year that makes everyone think they will do things they never actually do. I know from experience. I still curse like a sailor. I still weigh over 150 pounds. I still live in my oversized hoodie and sweatpants despite owning cuter clothing. I still rarely wear makeup even though my makeup game is on point. And yet, when analyzing my past resolutions, what I recognize is not a goal to strive for, but rather me succumbing to society’s bullshit.

Why do I feel the need to be skinnier when I am already a healthy weight? Why do other women around me feel the need to make their resolution to get a romantic partner? Why do we feel the need to wear body conforming clothing instead of what’s comfortable? A new year signals a fresh start, a time to strive for growth yet instead of choosing goals that make us happier, we choose goals that make us feel like we are more physically desirable.

As a woman, I am part of a gender that has been historically objectified so much that it has become internalized. I remember the first time I weighed myself at Emory and saw that I was 156 pounds, I cried. I remember taking my hands and squishing all of the fat on my stomach, wishing I could cut it off. In that moment, it didn’t matter that I was 5’8 and that I lift weights so the new weight was muscle mass. It didn’t matter that to everyone else around me, I was beautiful and had a great figure.

I felt like the ugliest person in the world yet deep inside me, I knew this was wrong. In high school, I had strong women figures I looked up to and they taught me that my value lies in who I am, not in society’s sexually objectifying construction of female value.

And yet, every time I looked in a mirror, I heard the words of the women in my family. I remember one time I was walking down the hallway and my mom told me I looked like I was pregnant. A week earlier, I had been told by a nutritionist that I was under eating at a daily intake of 500 calories and that I needed to eat more. When I left for college, my Abuela didn’t wish me well. She told me to lose some weight. When I came back for fall break, the first thing my mom told me wasn’t that she missed me but that she was proud of me because I looked skinnier.

What my mom doesn’t know is that when I heard those words and remembered that weight of 156 on the scale, I wanted to stop eating. I realized what was happening so I started forcing myself to go to the cafeteria three times a day. I would pick out a healthy meal but as I ate it, I would feel this self-loathing in my chest. I knew in my mind that I was doing the right thing by eating yet I couldn’t stop feeling like a failure.

I reached out to my close friends at Emory for help, but they were busy with classes and they couldn’t keep up. I fought it for a month and a half but eventually, I just stopped eating. I figured out that I could eat half a bowl of cereal a day and still have enough energy to finish my homework. I did this until my weight was finally down to 150, and then 149, and then 148. I was still exercising. I did two martial arts classes a week. I was running 3 miles every Tuesday and Thursday after I did weights for two hours. I went down four jeans sizes and no one around me noticed.

I didn’t look like someone who starved themselves. I still had a small belly. I have a full hourglass figure and as my friends say, my butt is big enough for four people. When you think of someone who starves themselves, you think of a super skinny woman with hollowed out eyes and bones jutting out of her skin. No one pictures women like me, who look healthy and have a chest and a butt. They don’t expect the starving woman to be curvy. Instead, they applaud you for losing weight. They compliment you on your work ethic, on your new body. People would tell me I looked hot.

Learning to love and accept my body was hard when everyone around me seemed to love me more for hating it. It wasn’t until December of my fall semester that I started eating again. It was hard. I would make myself stay in the cafeteria until I ate a full meal. Sometimes, that meant staying there pretty much all day, but I did it. I did it because one day when I looked in the mirror, I said fuck you to all the people who found my value in my waistline. I realized that anyone whose love of me was proportional to how skinny I was didn’t love me at all. But mostly, I realized that I didn’t want to be like this anymore. I started eating because I love myself more than I want to be skinny and more than any sexist, outdated misconception of women could tell me not to.

I realized that I needed to put myself first, so I did. I stopped weighing myself on a scale. I started eating three times a day. I started striking up conversations with strangers and sometimes, we’d have great conversations. Other times, it would be awkward, and that was okay. I started doing the things that make me happy. I went to the Atlanta Botanical Garden with one of my close friends. I read cheesy romance books in my bed with a bag of Oreos. I watched hilarious youtube videos with one of my other close friends. I started telling myself, “I love you,” before I go to sleep. I started performing my poetry. I started being my own best friend, and it’s the best decision I’ve ever made.

So for new years, my resolution isn’t to get skinny, or get a romantic partner, or any of that. In fact, I don’t have a resolution, because being loving towards myself isn’t just for January 1st. Learning to love my body is hard, and it’s not something I do once a year. It’s something I have and continue to work on every day. Instead, for new years, I want to thank all the strong women in my life for reminding me that I’m wonderful just the way I am and that society’s sexist views can go fuck themselves. I want everyone out there who struggles with self-hate whether it be anorexia like me or something else to know that you're not alone. You are never alone, so keep fighting. Keep going. I promise you will get through this.

Cover Image Credit: RawPixel
Cover Image Credit: Nana Kwaku Addo Adjedu

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